Readers of this Website are probably well aware of the relationship between engagement in election campaigns and passage of good environmental legislation. The Sierra Club takes this relationship seriously, and occasionally endorses candidates in races ranging from City Council to US President.
The recent US Supreme Court decision favoring involvement of corporations in campaign financing is causing real concern among organizations like the Sierra Club; the fear is that the influence of money will far outstrip our ability to effectively help a campaign with volunteer support. But even before corporations take advantage of the Supreme Court ruling, the flow of money to incumbents, be they good guys or bad, is a major factor that often diminishes our ability to have a significant effect.
Below is a brief illustration of the fund-raising advantages that local incumbent members of Congress have over their challengers. The data is from the Federal Election Commission’s 2010 Second Quarter report.
3rd District. (Erie) First term Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D) has raised $1,519,715 to and her General Election opponent Mike Kelly (R) has raised $547,006. According to The Cook Political Report, this race is “Leaning Democrat”.
4th District. (Pittsburgh northern suburbs) Congressman Jason Altmire (D) is the strongest local fund-raiser with $1,930,633, compared to challenger Keith Rothfus’ (R) $560,431. According to The Cook Political Report, this race is “Likely Democrat”.
12th District. (Johnstown) The two contenders in this district had to raised large funds for the Special Election in May. The incumbent Mark Critz (D) raised $1,489,509 and has cash-in-hand less debt of $89 285. Opponent Tim Burns (R) raised $1,826,796 but is in debt and is relying heavily on outside help for TV advertising. According to The Cook Political Report, this race is “Leaning Democrat”.
14th District. (Pittsburgh) Without a serious challenge, Congressman Mike Doyle (D) has raised $518,258. According to The Cook Political Report, this district is “Solidly Democrat”.
18th District. (Pittsburgh southern and eastern suburbs.) Incumbent Tim Murphy (R) has raised $1,326,350 compared to challenger Dan Connolly’s $116,464. At the end of June Connolly (D) had $30,633 cash–in-hand and Murphy $833,846. According to The Cook Political Report, this race is “Solidly Republican.”.